I didn’t get a chance to start reading Secretary Gates’s new book “Duty” until last night, so I’m only about 250 pages deep, but I think it is a remarkable book. I’ll write a full review once I’m finished, but you don’t often get such an honest, candid, no-holds-barred account from an insider like Gates, and the fact that he served as Defense Secretary under TWO Presidents of DIFFERENT parties is just incredible.
The man doesn’t hold back, he knows his work, he was deep in the councils of two very different Presidencies, and there simply aren’t many insider accounts like this. Plus, Gates is a smart dude, a highly-respected public servant, and, at times, pretty goddamn funny. If you have the slightest interest in the last two Presidential Administrations, you should go get this book two weeks ago. Like I said, full review still to come.
Well, many Americans (myself included) don’t feel like we accomplished anything in Iraq. Yes, Saddam Hussein is dead, but our role in this world is not to change terrible regimes. We used intelligence that was faulty at best, but more accurately just completely made up to justify a costly, deadly invasion of a sovereign nation that we just didn’t like. Saddam was terrible and so was Qaddafi, but getting rid of horrible dictators isn’t our job. And if it was, we’d be shitty at that job because Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is still ruling in Iran on a platform of American hatred, Bashar al-Assad is doing the same things to the people in Syria that Qaddafi did to the Libyans, and we’ve definitely let Kim Jong-il get away with developing and testing nuclear weapons in North Korea while also starving his people and provoking South Korea and Japan. Our foreign policy is hypocritical and that’s why it feels like we’re at war for nothing. If we acted on what we said we believe, we wouldn’t be so cozy with Saudi Arabia, who is far more disgusting in their human rights abuses than even China.
I supported the Afghanistan War. I felt that we needed to respond after 9/11, punish those who were responsible, destroy the Taliban, attempt to destabilize and destroy al-Qaeda, and hunt down and kill Osama bin Laden and the leaders of al-Qaeda. I think that President Bush should have committed more troops to Afghanistan from the beginning, and the Iraq War never should have happened. That would have allowed us to focus that attention on Afghanistan (or Pakistan, if it was necessary) instead of getting bogged down in a war with a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. The War on Terror, of course, is not simply an Afghanistan War, but I feel like a more concentrated focus on Afghanistan would have ended our campaign in Afghanistan and helped began reconstruction. Now, we’re 10 years on in Afghanistan and it’s still not a completed mission.
Will the War on Terror ever truly end? Probably not in the next few Presidential terms. Besides Afghanistan and Iraq, I believe we currently have soldiers (or “advisers” if you want to use Vietnam-era language) fighting, training, assisting, or operating in some form or another in the Philippines, Somalia, Yemen, Mali, Djibouti, Niger, Nigeria, Liberia, Chad, Libya, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritania, Kenya, Ethiopia, the Seychelles. Colombia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guyana, Suriname, Australia, Korea, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Burundi, Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia, the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and scores of other nations that I’m leaving out. I think we have Americans troops either fighting, stationed, or operating in some fashion in 130 countries around the world. It’s insane.
So, I definitely supported the war in Afghanistan from the beginning, but I wish that I was optimistic enough to feel that there is an end or an exit. I’m happy with President Obama’s aggressive targeting of al-Qaeda’s leaders. We’ve killed a lot of top terrorists in the the past three years. I’m just not sure how or if we’ll know that our mission is complete. The War on Terror has already been going on longer than American involvement in the Civil War, World War I, and World War II — combined.